What is the worst thing that could ever happen to us? If our greatest enemy had only one wish, one chance to strike us down with vengeance, what would they have to do to be successful? I find myself thinking about what the worst thing that could ever happen to me would be. Death always pops up, but then I let that slide off of my back, because if I were to die, then nothing after matters, so that couldn’t be the answer. I allow my mind to jump from thought to thought, soaking in all of the possibility of truth in each option. I could have my legs taken from me, I could grow ill, my family could grow ill.
No matter where the “What is the Worst Thing That Could Happen to Me” wheel lands in my mind, I always reason that I could overcome it, sooner or later. We are stronger than we give ourselves credit for, even stronger than we ever know. It is in the darkest moments that we are introduced to our true selves. This is what Napoleon Hill means when he says that the “The turning point in the lives of those that succeed usually comes at the moment of some crisis, through which they are introduced to their ‘other selves’”.
So something that allows us to grow better obviously could never be the worst thing to ever happen to us, therefore I never decide on that. In fact, if possible, I would decide on those heartbreaking moments to be some of the best things to happen to us, because “no man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity, for he is not permitted to prove himself” (Seneca). So then what could it be? What is the worst thing that could ever happen to one of us?
Sometimes, on my naive days, I tend to believe that I know what is best for me. I tend to think that things should work out a certain way, people should behave according to a plan laid out in the folds of my frontal lobe, and that the world should turn at just the right pace for me to balance myself. I tend to shoot wishes, expectations like notes tied to arrows into the cosmos, and find myself surprised, ashamed, and embarrassed when the cosmos don’t write back. I sometimes fill my days with dreams of what life should, could, or would be like had the universe listened to reason, my reason specifically.
I remember cursing, counting the days down to a break in the monotonous life that was mine. I remember feeling empty, shallow, weak, and overcome by a whirlwind of emotions. I remember notes with no one to receive them, late night dial tones with a silent prayer for an answer. I remember harsh critiques of God with only my ears to hear it. I remember anger pulsing through my veins like a heartbeat at every lie, every ounce of “ill intention” that I perceived. I was naive.
The worst thing that could have ever happened to me, was for the cosmos to write back, for the phone to answered, for God to hear my critiques and readjust whatever strategy this world is based off of. If I was always right, if every situation worked out according the the diagram I drew up, that would be the worst. There would be no me, at least not in the sense of who I am today. I’ve have an over inflated confidence with a shallow list of reasons as to why. There would be no resilience, because I would never have been tested. If I always got what I wanted in the moment, my parents would have never gotten divorced; I would have never dropped out of college; my first application would have been selected right into the Police Academy. If I was always able to wish myself right, I would have never been spurned by lovers, parents, friends, employers; my mother would have never allowed me to build resilience by leaving us, and my father by not leaving us.
If I had some sort of mortal enemy, seeking to right my wrongs with a swift sense of justice, the worst thing they could ever allow to happen to me would be that I was always able to get what I wanted. Every wish was granted, as if I had a hundred Genie’s. Imagine that, like some sort of childish dream, a reality that would bend to our will, our command. It sounds foolish, like some sort of pipe dream and I feel odd even typing it. But if so, if it is that foolish of a premise to accept, then why do we attempt to live it in real life, and then wallow in our sorrows when we can’t?
Why do we try to bend the universe with our will, attempting to influence the outcome of sports games, or change people’s minds? Why do we waste time in self pity when we lose, when we spread our heart out for the whole world to see, and it is stomped on, denied, and sent back to us without the “Fragile: Handle With Care” sticker that we sent it with?
If we look back on the best moments of our lives, they always come after a seemingly terrible moment. A child’s birth comes after the pain of labor (or watching labor), a relationship comes after the nervous shakes and racing hearts, love comes after work. But if we avoided this, if we attempted to always get what we “know” that we want (in this case, comfort), nothing good would ever happen to us, because we would always avoid the bad. If we were able to “wish” our way into pleasant situations, would they even be pleasant? Is love love without the work to get there? Is the car still as meaningful when it was handed to you?
If we were able to wish our lives together, would we ever feel a sense of accomplishment? A sense of achievement at knowing that we defied the odds, that we stood strong in the face of fear, that we overcame obstacles and succeeded not in spite of them, but because of them. If we always had the ability to dictate the outcome, who would we be?
Obviously, this scenario isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, but it doesn’t mean that we still don’t attempt to think it true in our minds. Everybody wants things to work out in their favor, praying for a winning lottery ticket, or for the stars to align on your first date. But, as pointed out earlier, what is our favor? What does it mean for something to work out, “In our favor”, if there is no such thing as our favor? What may be good now, usually changes as time passes. The person we wish would love us forever, and the spurned pain we feel when they don’t, usually transcends into appreciation and gratefulness at how the situation ended. How foolish does the whining feel after we got denied a job that we thought was perfect and meant for us, only to find a better one a few weeks later?
If I was always able to avoid the “bad” and get what I wanted, I can’t imagine what life would look like today. Regardless, I can still count the hours, and see the days tally up that I wasted indulging in self pity after a tough conversation did not work out how I had hoped, after I was rejected, denied, or whatever other event that I perceived as “bad” occured.
To close, reflect on: “There is no good or bad, just thinking makes it so”, as Shakespeare tells us in Act Three of Hamlet. Understanding the truth in this, means understanding the fallacy in believing in our own sense of life-direction, understanding the tragedy in anger, or self pity when we go off course, and understanding the lack of legitimacy at whatever we perceive is good or bad in any given situation.